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MSU guard Kenzie Williams (4) puts pressure on Drake's Kyndal Clark (4) during the second half of Thursday's opening round game in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at St. Charles
The MSU Lady Bears' season is over.
Drake pulled away late in the second half to beat the Lady Bears 81-66 Thursday evening in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference Women's Basketball Tournament in St. Charles.
The game, played at The Family Arena, featured 12 lead changes and ten ties, but the Bulldogs took the lead for good with 8:11 left in regulation on a three pointer by Mary Pat Specht.
Drake put away the game by scoring the final nine points of the contest, ending MSU's season at 14-17.
Bry Snow had 12 points to lead Missouri State, followed by Karly Buer with 11 and Whitney Edie with ten.
Webb City native Kyndal Clark's 17 points led four Drake players with double figures. Ashley Bartow had 16, Morgan Reid 15, and Specht 12.
MSU carried a 39-34 lead into halftime. Junior Hannah Wilkerson's three pointer and layup in less than 30 seconds gave the Lady Bears a seven point advantage, 37-30, with 2:48 left in the half.
When Bry Snow hit a shot and was fouled with 18:44 left in regulation, MSU was back in front by seven, 43-36, equalling their largest lead of the game.
But Clark's three pointer with 17:53 left tied the game 43-43.
The lead went back and forth four more times in the next two minutes, with Buer's jumper giving Missouri State a 50-49 edge with 15:15 remaining.
Tyonna Snow gave MSU a spark when she hit a shot, was fouled, and drained a free throw with 12:53 on the clock, putting the Lady Bears back up by four, 55-51.
But Drake had a quick answer, as Bartow's second three pointer of the game fell through the net 30 seconds after Snow's bit play, getting the Bulldogs back within one, 55-54.
Buer hit a shot to briefly put the Lady Bears back up by five, 59-54, with 10:17 remaining, but the lead dwindled quickly.
Bry Snow had the ball slip out of her hands on what would have been an easy layup, while senior Christiana Shorter couldn't hold on to the basketball the next time down the court, adding up to 19 turnovers in the game for MSU.
Drake's Emma Donahue cut the lead to one, 59-58, before Specht's big play sent things downhill for MSU, who couldn't seem to buy a basket, or a rebound, or even a free throw. The Lady Bears went 1-6 at the line in the second half, 5-12 for the game.
The Bulldogs shot 47.7% (30-72) from the field, and 9-26 (34.6%) from the three point line. MSU was 28-72 from the field (38.9%) and 5-17 from beyond the arc (29.4%)
"The story of our season, failure to put 40 minutes together and failure to make big plays when we needed to," MSU Head Coach Nyla Milleson said in her postgame press conference. "We're really lacking that lockdown leader that is just going to get in somebody's face and get stops, and somebody that says 'I want the ball and I'm going to go score.' We just don't have it. We got some kids that lead really well by example on a day-to-day basis. We're just really lacking floor leadership, and again it showed today."
Milleson says the woes from the charity stripe our also a microcosm of how things have gone this year. "Unfortunately, we haven't been a good free throw shooting team," Milleson said. "At one point and time a couple of weeks ago, we were second leading in free throw attempts in the country. We do what we have to do in order to get to the free throw line and we've got to get better."
Lady Bears redshirt freshman Kenzie Williams, who netted nine points, says when Drake grabbed the lead and tried to pull away, her team still had a chance. "We just needed to stay together at that point and make some plays on the offensive and defensive end, and we didn't at that time. Shots didn't fall and we kind of let it affect how we got back and let them get into a rhythm. They got going and it was hard to get back up from that point."
The Bulldogs advance to take on Wichita State in Friday's quarterfinal round at noon. The Shockers, whose head coach Jody Adams was named the Valley Coach of the Year Thursday night, are the top seeded team after tying with Creighton for the regular season league title.
This is Missouri State's earliest exit from the Valley Tournament since 2009 when the Lady Bears lost to Wichita State 52-51 in the opening round.
MSU finished Thursday's game making just three of its last 15 shots, while Drake made eight of its last 11, including three shots from beyond the arc.
Drake is now 5-0 in opening round games of the Valley Tournament.
MSU's all time Valley Tournament record is 36-17, including a 3-6 mark by Nyla Milleson.
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